California adopts 22 new laws taking aim at wildfire danger

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — California is adopting nearly two dozen laws aimed at preventing and fighting the devastating wildfires that have charred large swaths of the state in recent years and killed scores of people.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that he had signed the 22 bills, saying several also will help the state meet its clean energy goals.

The measures largely enact key recommendations from a June report by a governor’s task force and build on USD1 billion in the state budget devoted to preparing for wildfires and other emergencies, Newsom said.

Newsom signed the legislation as the state approaches the anniversary of the wildfire that killed 85 people and largely levelled the Northern California town of Paradise last November.

It’s just short of the second anniversary of the firestorms that raced through the wine country counties north and east of San Francisco, noted state Senator Mike McGuire, a Democrat representing Healdsburg in the affected areas. But he said the state is learning from its mistakes.

The fires changed the lives of tens of thousands of Californians, but the losses of lives and property “should not go in vain,” McGuire said in a statement. “We have a new normal in California and our state is stepping up.”

Several bills encourage communities to adopt standards for making homes and their surroundings more fire resistant.

One requires state officials to work with communities in high-risk areas to create a retrofit programme to update homes built prior to stricter building codes in 2008.